Wednesday, April 04, 2007

sigh: saying no

We're getting ready for our field sales force to come into the office in a few weeks. One of our jobs is to brief them on the whirlwind of activities going on "in headquarters".

"It's really important," said the head of one of our sales teams, "because they don't really see what we do every day. Their impression of us is skewed. They see Bob saying no to deals they want to do. . ."

Pretty much everything after that was "woof woof woof" to me.

Am I really the guy who says no?

"No, we're not going into that segment right now."

"No, we're not a custom programming shop."

"No, that's not enough money to shuffle our devqueue."

I guess I am. Because the "no" responses don't stop there.

"No, I refuse to accept that the way we're doing things today is the way we should always do them."

"No, it's not good enough to be good enough."

"No, we really don't know what our prospects are thinking until we ask them."

There's a song by "They Might Be Giants" called. . .wait for it. . .


No is no
No is always no
If they say no, it means a thousand times no
No plus no equals no
All nos lead to no no no
Finger pointing, eyebrows low
Mouth in the shape of the letter O
Pardon me -- No!
Excuse me -- No!
May I stay?
Can I go?
No, no, no
Do this -- No!
Don't do that -- No!
Sit, stay, roll over
No, no, no
Finger pointing, eyebrows low
Mouth in the shape of the letter O
Red means stop. Do not go.
No, no, no.

My nice-guy center tells me that it's nicer to say yes.

At which point the 400-pound Ukranian female wrestler of my better judgment delivers a suplex to my nice-guy center from the upper turnbuckle.

Then she makes nice, because I say no with love. Tough love. One Would Hope that Saying No is the Logical Precursor to Saying Yes.

Because there is the same compelling need to justify No as to justify Yes.

Except that you get to twirl your Snidley Whiplash moustachios when you say no.


Jeff said...

An important part of being a good product manager is knowning when to say no

bob said...


Nice article - thanks for the link.

I guess what I'm trying to communicate in this post isn't that it's important to say no - that's a given.

I'm just reflecting on what it feels like to be the guy who has to say no, to be perceived as the guy who says no.

And ultimately the sad realization that there are certain people I like to say no to, if I give free rein to my baser instincts. The opposite is true as well.

Bruce McCarthy said...

I find my salespeople are sometime relieved when I say no to something they knew was kind of out there. They're not comfortable saying no so they're really looking for backup, someone to say no to the customer for them.

I run into this all the time with our supported environments statement. Customers ask all the time if they can run on an unsupported version of an appserver or whatever and the salespeople can't seem to say no even though it says "no" on the website in black and white.

I think they want to be the good cop to the customer and say they went to bat for them with headquarters. I get to be the bad guy. That's okay, though, because I give the customer all of the background on why the answer is no and I even throw in that the decisions on what we support are "market driven" and thank them for their input. It usually turns into a good conversation and the salesperson didn't have to say no.

Of course, sometimes I do wish they'd grow up a little and learn to say no on their own. I can dream, can't I?